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Guidance on tracking progress

It is important to measure the progress you are making in your project
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Indicators

Indicators help us understand the signs of change and track progress towards achieving that change.

An indicator is a sign that the outcome, or change, is happening. Indicators are often expressed as:

  • the extent of ...
  • the ability to ...
  • the amount of ...

In order to know whether you are making progress towards achieving outcomes, you need to set at least one indicator for each outcome. Your indicators and their level will help you know whether a particular change is happening, and to what extent a particular outcome is being achieved over the life of the project.

When you have identified the change that you wish to make (your outcomes), the indicator is the answer to the question: "if a change is happening, how will we know?" It's helpful to think of this question first, before thinking about how to measure it. For example:

Outcome

How will we know?

Reduced isolation for older people There will be a change in the number of older people stating that they feel isolated
Reduced vandalism in the area There will be a change in the number of incidents reported
Small voluntary organisations have a better understanding of income generation There will be a change in the level of understanding of income generation within small organisations in the area (and longer term a change in income)

Measuring progress

You will also need to establish:

  • the scale or level of the change you wish to make, such as how many people will experience the outcomes from your project, and
  • how you will measure the change so that you can tell how much progress you are making towards achieving your outcomes.

Outcome indicators can be expressed in terms of numbers (for example a reduction in the amount of pollution), or in terms of words (for example where you assess people's views or experiences, such as young people's feelings of self-confidence, or parent's ability to cope with their children).

For each indicator you use for measuring progress, you will need to show how much progress you have made year on year. This will mean estimating levels and timescales for your indicators, for example "200 local residents will have a more positive attitude towards young people by the end of the second year".

A way of thinking about measuring progress is to imagine meeting one of your beneficiaries for the first time and then again after a week, month or year:

  • What are they doing when you first meet? What might they be saying? How do they engage (or not) with the project? How do you know they have needs?
  • How would you answer these questions in the middle of the project, or at the end of their involvement with your project? What will be different for them in terms of their skills, attitude or knowledge?

You could lay out this information in similar way to the following example:


Outcome

Indicator

Indicator level

Timescale

Reduced isolation for older people The number of older people stating that they feel isolated 50 older people report that they feel less isolated By year 1
    100 older people report that they feel less isolated By year 2
    A total of 250 older people report that they feel less isolated By the end of the project
Reduced vandalism in the area The number of incidents of vandalism reported 10 incidents reported per month By year 1
    5 reported per month By year 2
    1 reported per month By the end of the project
Small voluntary organisations have a better understanding of income generation The level of understanding of income generation within small organisations in the area 100 people attend training By year 1
    150 people attend training By year 2
    A total of 400 people have attended training (follow up surveys with participating organisations show an increase in income generation activities in years one, two and three) By the end of the project

 

In some projects, there may be intermediate outcomes i.e. the step changes that happen before the ultimate desired outcome is reached. If that is the case, you can identify and fill in the steps on the journey, describing how you know that beneficiaries have moved through a stage - see the exercise in help with... for an example of this.

In some projects, such as helping people to eat more healthily, the real benefits such as reduced heart disease and other types of illness may only emerge in years or decades to come. In this case, it will be more realistic and practical to measure changes in things like knowledge, attitudes and behaviour: steps along the way.

During the lifetime of many projects there will be some unexpected outcomes, either desirable or undesirable. It may be helpful to record these unexpected outcomes, as this information will help you learn from and adapt your project as you go along.

We and other funders will ask you how far you have progressed towards meeting your outcomes as time goes along, so you will need to build up this information year on year. Therefore, identifying practical and realistic ways of measuring progress is critical to your project success and your relationship with your funders.

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